There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this article, you’re reading it on a smartphone or tablet. It’s also likely that you have a number of apps on these devices. Maybe you have some health apps that tie into a FitBit or similar device. You know you’re sending data to those app developers and to Apple or Google or whoever. Maybe you have a Nest thermostat at home as well. A new car with built-in Carplay or GPS as well? You, are a data collection machine. So are hundreds of millions of others. But that’s alright, the government has privacy laws. The EU government probably now has the toughest privacy legislations in place in the world. While that’s good, it may be difficult to enforce, let alone prosecute.
The Global Data Privacy Conundrum
We are collecting such massive amounts of data today. More than in the history of mankind. And it’s entirely borderless. It is reasonable to argue that every big tech company from Apple to Google, Microsoft, IBM, Samsung and so on, are all in violation of privacy laws in many countries. Not intentionally. That’s the way it is in a hyperconnected world.
Toss in the Internet of Things
As we integrate sensors into more and more devices and appliances, ever more data is collected. This is the Internet of Things and there are estimates that already nearly 7 Billion devices are connected and Cisco predicts 1 trillion devices will be connected by 2025 when we include the industrial Internet of Things.
Then There’s The Hackers
We can’t forget all that data that has been and will be stolen. Most of the time it’s personal data that is stolen and sold that contains access to your financial information. In time, that may change to household information to hold your connected house hostage for ransom or health data for nefarious purposes.
The Challenge for Governments and Companies
All of this collecting and sharing of data will pose huge problems for both industry and government. While the likes of Apple and Google may be able to set terms on the use of data from their devices to app developers, it can become difficult when aggregate data is resold by an app developer. Or a company buys a lot of data from various sources for Big Data projects. Fortunately there are advances in ways that data can be transferred with secure tokens so it remains anonymous and can be extremely difficult to unravel unless you have the key.
For governments, the challenge will be to track where the data goes and who’s sending it around. At what point of the flow of data is a company responsible? How do governments enforce privacy laws when outside their jurisdiction? The EU views privacy differently from Canada and America. Multinational corporations move data around constantly; so how does this impact operations?
There are no clear or easy answers. All we can say is that more data will be generated and it will move all over the world. Tracing its flow will be ever more complex and difficult. As part of privacy laws we may likely see ways that governments will enshrine human rights on personal data. That will work in democracies, but may be difficult in less than democratic nations and those with poor human rights records.
Do you know where your data is?